November 21, 2012 Edition
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Be happy with what you have
and with what you don't have
As a child I was often admonished by my parents with what I came to regard as the family slogan, "Be happy with what you have, because a lot of people don't have what you have."
Growing up with a prosaic mother and a philosophical father has its own pitfalls.
If I asked my mother if there were really people who did not have beans and potatoes, she would give me that look and say, "There are people who are starving in this world and they would be very happy to have a plate of beans, never mind the potatoes."
My father on the other hand would discuss the real meaning behind my mother's favorite entreaty. He would explain that there have always been those who had too much and those who had too little. But in a happy blend of circumstances some people are lucky enough to have just enough.
I do remember once sitting down to a plate of beans and potatoes and saying, "Hey, Mom, could we send these beans to one of those people who would be happy to have just a plate of them and I'll just eat my potatoes?" Mom's predictable response was, "Don't be stupid."
I don't mean to imply that all we ever ate was beans and potatoes, but it was a predominate part of our diet. Sunday dinners, however, were extravagant by comparison and often included fried chicken, meatloaf, or sometimes a plate loaded with pot roast in thick rich gravy and mashed potatoes and carrots.
On one particular Sunday when we had company over for dinner, the kitchen table was groaning with food. I announced to those sitting down to eat that it was a very happy day, "I am happy to have what I have, but I am mostly happy for what I do not have, beans." My mom and dad laughed and our guests looked confused.
With the holidays fast approaching and as I am preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving, it occurs to me that now more than ever I need to be happy with what I have. I have been blessed beyond measure. I have a roof over my head, a job I love, family and friends who are dear to me, and a ten-pound bag of beans in my pantry.
I have come to appreciate the wisdom of my parents. They knew the secret to being happy. They were always happy to have enough.
I still eat beans and I am happy to have them, but I am also going to say emphatically that they will not be served on Thanksgiving Day.
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